By JANE HOUIN
OVERLAND PARK, Kans. — Farmers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies and many others across America will celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture on March 20, the first day of spring and National Ag Day.
The National Ag Day program’s mission is to increase public awareness about U.S. agriculture. As world population soars, there is greater demand for the food, fiber and renewable resources that America produces. This is the 36th anniversary of National Ag Day, which is celebrated in classrooms and communities as part of National Ag Week - March 15-21.
Today, each U.S. farmer feeds more than 144 people. In 1960, each farmer fed 46 people. Innovations in farming techniques and technology have increased efficiency in the food production process.
But the industry provides more than food, feed and fiber, said Greg Webb, vice president, state government relations, Archer Daniels Midland Co. and chair of the Agriculture Council of America (ACA). It produces biofuels, solvents, lubricants, plastics, building materials and more.
“We are proud to honor American farmers and celebrate their contribution to the nation and the world on National Agriculture Day,” Webb said. “The agriculture industry is the foundation of our nation’s economy, and farmers are essential to keeping that economy strong.”
More than 22 million people work in agriculture, including careers in everything from food chemistry to banking to commodity trading. The job descriptions of tomorrow’s ag professionals may look different due to advances in farming technology and the broad opportunities that extend far beyond the field.
The ACA, organizers of National Ag Day, believes Americans should understand how food, fiber and renewable resources are produced and should value the role of agriculture in securing a strong economy. National Ag Day will focus on teaching Americans about farming, so they may acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture.
Getting the next generation of ag leaders involved is part of the mission. Student representatives from FFA, 4-H and other agriculturally based youth organizations will meet with Congressmen and carry the message of Ag Day to Capitol Hill.
“These student delegates represent the future of our industry,” said Jenny Pickett, of ACA. “National Ag Day presents an opportunity to inspire and support them … to instill just how important agriculture is in the life of every American.”
A key component of the Ag Day events is an essay contest for 7th-12th-grade students. Students submit original essays of 450 words about the importance of agriculture. This year’s contest subject was Agriculture - Every Day in Every Way.
The winner, Kaitlin Wiest, was the recipient of a $1,000 prize and a round-trip ticket to Washington, D.C., where she was recognized at the National Celebration of Agriculture Dinner at the USDA on March 12.
Students were to focus essays on the broader scope of agriculture, showcasing the diversity of today’s U.S. farms. Though row crops and livestock are a foundation of the industry, agriculture many more career opportunities.
Wiest, an eighth-grader at Upper Dauphin Middle School, Lykens, Pa., read her essay at the Celebration of Agriculture dinner.
“Agricultural products are used by each of us every day,” she reported. “When our alarm clocks ring in the morning, they are most likely made of a plastic derived from corn or soybeans. We then go to our closets and pick out our cotton clothing to wear.
“Next, it’s breakfast. We grab the carton of milk and the box of eggs, which come from dairy and poultry farms. Soon, we hurry out the door to a vehicle powered by ethanol. At lunch, we open our lunch bags to pull out a bologna sandwich with cheese, lettuce and tomatoes.
“At home, we make dinner, honey-glazed ham with beans, and sugar cookies for dessert. Everything we eat is an agricultural product. As the day ends, we crawl under our wool blankets and go to sleep not thinking that the many things we did today involved agriculture.”
Each statewide essay winner received $100. These winners included Greg Wolf of Illinois, Erica Doyle of Indiana, Luke Anderson of Michigan, Andrew Perkins of Ohio and Elisa Vendergriff of Tennessee.
“This year’s topic showcased the diversity of American agriculture,” said Gerald Tumbleson of ACA. “It was great to see the depth of knowledge today’s youth have about the agricultural industry. Katlin’s essay highlighted the many areas of agriculture that people encounter on a day-to-day basis.”
For more on National Ag Day contact the ACA at 913-491-1895 or visit online at www.agday.org